Early Release: Lawmakers question program that reduces sentences while educating prisoners
Hartford Courant Editorial
August 16, 2012
The rate at which Connecticut's former prisoners are rearrested is discouraging at best. According to a recent state report, 56 percent of released offenders are rearrested within two years; almost 40 percent are convicted on new charges. Clearly, more must be done to curb such recidivism.
One initiative, the Risk Reduction Earned Credit Program, aims to do that by providing classes and other activities to prepare inmates for a crime-free life when they re-enter their communities. As an attendance incentive, the sentences of inmates who participate in the sessions are reduced by five days a month. Now that program is under fire from Republican lawmakers who fear it may be releasing dangerous people too early.
At issue is the recent rearrest of a former inmate on a charge of homicide. The man, who was serving time for armed robbery and had participated in the risk-reduction program, was released in April, with 199 days taken off his sentence. In June, he allegedly shot another man to death in a convenience store holdup. That crime, some Senate Republicans say, is evidence that the program doesn't work.
It's too early in this year-old program to come to such a conclusion. One failure, even one leading to a fatality, is no justification for scuttling the entire program.
Republicans have asked for clarification of several facets of the program, such as an assurance that actual participation — not just signing up — occur before the sentence is reduced. That's reasonable, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's chief criminal justice policy adviser has offered to meet with lawmakers to address their questions.
According to state officials, to stay in the risk-reduction program, inmates must behave themselves — and since its inception, assaults on guards and other inmates have dropped off sharply. That raises the hope that with time, the program's major goal will be met.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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